(This post is co-written by Luke Dehart and myself)
Growing up I was not your typical boy. I didn’t like to spit, wasn’t interested in sports, nor did I adapt many of the habits other boys did at my age. Not to say I didn’t have male friends, I did, but in a group setting it just seemed so much easier to fit in with girls. I think there were a few reasons for this, the big one being emotionally availability. In small groups at church there is this feeling of expectation, a pressure to share. But when I was in groups of women because of the perceived gender difference it was expected that I be “the tough guy”, allowing me to safely remain emotionally closed off in attempts to protect myself.
They did not ask about how my life was, where my spiritual journey was, or if I was experiencing any difficulties—perhaps because they didn’t think I would respond— feelings are supposed to be discussed with other men, not women.
In church we tend to polarize guy-girl relationships. If we talk to a member of the opposite sex about feelings, we should only do so in pursuing a romantic relationship (with the goal of marriage). If we are hanging out with too many girls, we may be called flirtatious and told to get more guy friends.
Shouldn’t women be able to trust the men that are in their life to be supportive? I think we can do better at this — I can do better at this — Platonic relationships are tricky. Because men and women were created different, communicating effectively and making sure you are on the same page is no easy task.
If you’re interested in having platonic relationships, then there are some guidelines/rules that you might find helpful. Maintain a safe emotional distance between the other person by deciding not to talk about breakups, romantic interests, or whatever it is that might stir up feelings and jeopardize the [platonic] relationship.
When platonic relationships bloom, they can be a truly beautiful and beneficial thing, but, how do you know whether or not you should pursue a platonic relationship with some one? Below are some thoughts that may help guide your decision.
- Belief: Can men and women be friends? You first have to believe it is possible. It wont matter what I tell you, because what you believe, you will.
- Reason: Why do you want to be friends? Are you are trying to fulfill an unmet desire for intimacy? I suggest you to fulfill that need elsewhere or else you might find yourself in a one-sided friendship. Forming a friendship with someone you work with is a logical reason.
- Circumstance: Do you have class, athletics, service, work, or some other point of contact? Your shared circumstances serve as a starting point for the relationship. If the relationship itself is the focus, chances are feelings will develop.
- Accountability: It’s important in all areas of our lives, however, having it is crucial that you are accountable if you plan on being in (or maintaining) a platonic relationship. Create environment that keeps you accountable to ensure success. Hang out in group settings, always stay in the public eye, and have those (same-sex) friends who call you out if they believe you act inappropriately, never hang out alone.
- History: Have you been friends? Were you romantically involved at one point in time? If so how has your friendship changed, developed, and matured? Have you found yourself wishing for a romantic relationship with this person? It is difficult to form/maintain a platonic relationship with past romance. Time may heal wounds, but it does not wash memories away. Old feelings usually resurface in some form and will have to be dealt with.
- Honesty: At some point in time you will have friends of the opposite sex in which feelings start developing and you will have to decide to pursue a deeper relationship or not. If you do decide you would like to date the other person, talk to them about it that way you both are on the same page.. if not, but feelings persist, consider changing the dynamic or stepping back.
- Maturity: The biggest problem when it comes to opposite sex friendships (or relationships of any sort) is immaturity. Try to understand why the other person is behaving the way they are. What are they feeling? What has been going on in their life? Use those critical thinking skills that are so often lacking in society, because if you don’t, you probably will end up with a lot of frustration.
—If you have friendships that do not line up with the guidelines above, I would seriously recommend re-evaluating those relationships and why you are in them.